55 new Covid cases / Malta News Briefing – Thursday 8 April 2021

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Latest Update- News Portal Briefing

Times of Malta reports that the Labour Party has denied concerns raised by independent candidate Arnold Cassola that the Panama company E-Grant, whose owner is still unknown, may have been a vessel for funds to the Labour Party with the name standing for Election Grant.

MaltaToday reports that the Malta Medicines Authority has reaffirmed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risk of side effects, while encouraging vaccinated people and healthcare professions to be aware of any potential side effects.

TVM reports that a young man who attended the party currently being investigated by the Police has apologised and confirmed that this was held last night.

Newsbook reports that the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech continued today

Updated 1233 – Covid-19 Update

55 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Thursday, ten more than recoveries. For the second consecutive day, active cases have increased, reaching 554. Malta has now reported a total of 29,463 cases.
A 76-year-old man became the nation’s 401st victim of the virus.

Updated 1123 – Industrial production declines

In February 2021, the seasonally adjusted index of industrial production decreased by 3.7 per cent, the NSO said this morning. Decreases were registered in the production of consumer goods (7.2 per cent), capital goods (1.6
per cent) and intermediate goods (0.8 per cent). On the other hand, energy production increased by 5.2
per cent.

When compared to February 2020, the working-day adjusted index of industrial production decreased
by 10.7 per cent. This decline is the result of production decreases in all the main industrial groupings
namely, energy (23.1 per cent), capital goods (13.0 per cent), intermediate goods (10.4 per cent)
and consumer goods (3.8 per cent).

Updated 0835 – Enforcement and communication are key, argues Chamber

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry said this morning that restrictions adopted in response to the spike in Covid-19 cases a month ago have so far had the desired effect. The President of the Chamber, Marisa Xuereb, highlighted that this comes at high cost to businesses and their employees, and therefore every effort needs to be made in terms of both enforcement and personal responsibility to ensure that cases do not overwhelm us again and our economy can reopen and stay open safely.

The Chamber commended the decision to give priority to the reopening of schools and to stagger the reopening of other establishments to ensure that the situation remains under control. With the vaccine roll-out progressing at a steady pace, it is imperative that we continue working on reducing case numbers through social distancing measures, so that we may approach the summer in a favourable position to start reopening for tourism with appropriate visitor protocols.

It called on Government to improve is communication with social partners on the implementation and relaxation of restrictions. The Chamber said that it expects that the date of reopening of establishments for which no timeline has been set yet is communicated soon to allow operators to plan accordingly.

Updated 0833- Newspaper Review

Business Today says that the investors and contractors are ditching risky development partnerships and have turned to acquiring luxury property, following the recent string of high-profile arrangements linked to money laundering.   

The Times reports on a government plan for reopening of schools and non-essential businesses starting from the coming Monday. No dates have been outlined for restaurants and bars, gymnasiums, and organised sports.

The Independent says that non-essential shops and services are set to return to business on April 26. Addressing a press conference, the Prime Minister said that the government’s priority at this stage are education and the elderly.

L-Orizzont covers a press conference by Prime Minister Robert Abela announcing the gradual reopening of schools. He said that children need the school experience and cannot miss out on their education any longer.

The Malta Business Weekly says that the restriction on public gatherings is expected to rise from two people to a maximum of four from the last week of April. Churches can hold services from April 18.

In-Nazzjon says that the PN Covid Action Team welcomed the cautious easing of restrictive measures. A statement by the party said that the government is finally abiding by the advice of healthcare experts.

The Times publishes a letter to members by the president of the Institute of Accountants, Fabio Axisa, who said that the actions of a few individuals are bringing the entire profession into disrepute. Axisa said the Institute is “no home” for those who facilitate financial crime.

The Malta Business Weekly publishes an interview with Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg who said that company is committed to development of a business hotel and the SkyParks 2 project.

In-Nazzjon quotes PN Leader Bernard Grech who said that the party will unveil a ten-year plan for the tourism sector. Grech made the announcement during an interview on national television on Wednesday.

The Independent reports the 400th death from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic after a 78-year-old woman passed away at Mater Dei hospital on Wednesday. Active cases have increased to 545 in the last 24 hours.

Business Today says that telephony operator Epic is partnering with telecommunications company Ericsson to pave the way for 5G infrastructure in Malta. Epic described the €40 million investment as a company milestone.

L-Orizzont reports on a meeting between Italian Ambassador Fabrizio Romano and the General Workers Union. The secretary general of the union, Josef Bugeja, said that the GWU has a long history of partnership with Italian trade unions. 

Morning Briefing

Plan for easing of restrictions announced

Schools will re-open on Monday, with primary school students the first to go back behind their desks in a plan announced by Government yesterday. Middle school students will return to school on Wednesday while Secondary students will return on Friday. Post-secondary students will remain online for the time being. Elective surgery and visits to the elderly will be allowed as from Monday. Non-essential services and retail outlets will re-open on the 26. Four persons will be able to meet in public on the 26th April.

The plan was announced in a press conference by the Prime Minister yesterday.

All other measures will remain in place, including the closure of bars and restaurants. Church services will resume as of 18th April. The PM also confirmed that weddings will be allowed as from June 1st, the same target for the re-opening of the tourism industry.

Reactions to relaxation of measures

A number of organisations that represent industries not given the green-light to re-opened expressed their disappointment at the decisions announced yesterday. The catering lobby called for restaurants to be allowed to reopen with other non-essential shops and services. The PM gave no indication as to when as bars and restaurants will be allowed to re-open. Both the Association of Catering Establishments and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association expressed their disappointment in this regard.

The Malta Fashion Association also hit out at the decision to keep hairdressers, barbers, nail artists and beauty treatments closed until 26th April. In a statement, the Association said that these outlets were observing very strict hygiene protocols and at no point were mentioned to be a cause of the transmission of the virus.

The Nationalist Party welcomed the cautious approach but called for heightened screening at ports to combat the introduction of possible COVID-19 variants.

A number of sport organisations, such as the MFA, ASA and Athletics Malta, as well as a number of leading sports journalists and figures expressed their dismay that there was no mention at all of sports in the plan announced by the Prime Minister. The MFA Council, as a result, is expected to meet tomorrow afternoon to decided the fate of the Maltese football season. The Malta Olympic Committee highlighted the fact that locally organised sports is still not being allowed despite the efforts made by the various Federations and entities to ensure safe environments for all involved.

Covid-19 Update

Malta registered its 400th Covid-related death on Wednesday, a 78-year-old woman.
For the first time in a week, new cases (65) surpassed recoveries (47), increasing the number of active cases to 545.
223,020 doses of the anti-Covid 19 vaccination were administered, of which 61,111 were second doses.

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